The balancing act of being in a student created, curated and moderated Facebook group …

A many who follow this blog are aware, I am a bit of a busy bee when it comes to utilising social media. Apart from the obvious assumptions that I lack any form of personal life – working at a distance learning university, it is clear to me that social media is one of many essential tools for a ‘modern’ students.

I have many module team centric social media resources offering them to anyone and everyone. Yet the students want their own self-managed space. Which is their right and who am I to disagree.

Thinking back, I recall being a member of the groups being set up for the last five years. Early on it was stealth as some students saw this as a ranty space to illicitly share assignment answers and exam papers. Over the last two years the facebook groups have evolved into a mature environment, with students exchanging ideas and experiences.

Yes – there is still a bit of a OU swipe taking place – everyone needs to let off steam and there have been occasions where I would happily concur with the student’s perspective on a given situation.

So – I am a member of these groups (past/present/future) and they do know who I am and what my role is as chair. While there is some trepidation – from the group. They do use this space to reach me when needed. I do respond when appropriate – however more often I leave the conversation to the student supporting the student. It is their space – this is how it should be.

Should an academic (sic module chair) be interventionist – absolutely not, however it has proved useful to deal with student support issues, questions about the module and of course valid gripes.

There is an argument amongst my colleagues that all students should use our moodle forums for support, somewhat clunky and very early 00’s I am strongly of the biased opinion that they are somewhat dated. Social media means that the medium comes to you rather than having to visit another gateway limited structure.

I am beginning to think that we may as well move our forums out into social media – while I am very aware of some of the challenges this imposes. The world has moved on a long way from the BBS system that many academic institutions including the OU is using.

Meanwhile – I will continue to offer tacit support to current and future student moderated groups within social media and encourage the great work they are doing.


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